Last week I had the privilege of being invited to speak to the amazing staff at Johnson & Wales University in Denver and also do a five-hour consultation on their social media efforts. I have done a number of social media consults for departments, and other campus entities, and one of the questions that always arises is: “Can you show me a good example of a university doing social media?”
I can understand why people ask this question. Higher education and student affairs professionals are known for their free and open sharing of resources. When developing a new program or service, one of the first steps people take is to look at “best practices” or “exemplar institutions.” This makes sense. With social media, however, it often isn’t this easy. Sure, I can provide a list of institutions that seem to be successful (there are a number of lists out there: here, here, and here), but critical consumers of information will ask, “What’s the metric being used to determine these lists?” The tricky part about social media is that it is a moving target. New services come and go. Statuses, posts, and tweets go stale quickly. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, social media is about the interactions that take place. Interactions are hard to capture just by looking at a site. They’re what happens “in-between.”
When doing these consults, there are certainly some suggestions about concrete ways of engaging on social media that often work better than others (see one of my previous blog posts on the on topic, and coincidently, one of my most popular posts of all time: Three Simple Rules to Ramp Up Your Student Affairs Department’s Social Media Presence). However, to be truly successful with social media, one has to develop a more holistic voice and view the platform as more than just a new version of the bulletin board. This is a hard mindset to get into when social media may be “glommed” onto your job as an extra duty or side project. Being successful with social media requires a lot of experimentation, a lot of reading, and a lot of observing. This has to occur in real-time and isn’t something that is a static process. Looking through the social media presence of another department, campus or businesses for a few minutes will only get you so far. You need to get out there and interact and experiment.
So next time you’re reflecting on your use of social media, ask yourself:
- How do I view social media?
- Is it a one-way communication PUSH, or is it a true communication platform for two-way interaction?
- Is it a side-project, a marketing vehicle, or a way of truly engaging your audience?
(An interesting side note. Johnson & Wales has four campuses. Many folks, particularly where I live, think of the main and subsidiary campuses in Rhode Island, but there are also campuses in Miami, FL, Denver, CO, and Charlotte, NC. You can find out a bit more about them here.)
If you’re interested in having me speak or consult on your campus, find out more here.